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Spaulding volley bails Revs II out of another poor offensive performance

On a night without many quality chances, Revs II caught its break when a deflected Ryan Spaulding volley found the back of the net.

On Friday night, Revs II struggled in the attacking third––what else is new? The struggles emanated from poor decision-making, bad crosses, and misguided shots. These have been themes all season long.

Revs II players and staff aren’t blind to their attacking shortcomings. On multiple occasions, Revs II personnel have explicitly admitted the team’s attacking deficiencies; they know it’s an issue, but they haven’t quite cracked the code to solve it.

Tonight, Peay tried to rewire the attack. Michel operated incredibly high in the midfield, almost playing as a striker besides Edward Kizza at points. During some spells, it seemed as though Revs II were playing in a 4-2-4 formation, with Kizza and Michel playing centrally alongside Rivera and Rennicks on the wings. Outside back Ryan Spaulding was frequently ordered forward, too.

Lots of attacking juice, but little attacking output. The question arises: Are these attacking players good enough? If a front three of Kizza, Rennicks, and Rivera––who all own first-team contracts, by the way––can’t frequently terrorize defenses in USL League One, what does that say about their chances with the first team? Through four starts, Kizza has zero goals for Revs II, and Rennicks and Rivera have four combined goals through 27 games played this season.

Sure, Kizza is new to the professional game. Rivera is still young, yes. (Is there even an excuse for Rennicks at this point?) But these are highly-touted youngsters, frequently applauded by the Revolution coaching staff.

Fortunately, soccer is, from time to time, a game of luck––and sometimes, Revs II will catch a break. Friday was one of those days.

On a night when Revs II was incredibly wasteful with its chances, a half volley from Ryan Spaulding in the 68th minute––which kindly ricocheted off a defender and into an open net––offered the team a sigh of relief. The move started with captain Jake Rozhansky driving the ball forward and lofting a cross across the field to Spaulding, whose subsequent goal marked his second of the season.

Spaulding’s tally broke the deadlock and ultimately powered Revs II to its second 1-0 victory against Toronto FC II in two weeks; on July 9, Revs II beat Toronto FC II at home courtesy of a Damian Rivera goal. The win maintains Revs II’s unbeaten record against MLS second teams in 2021; Revs II is 5-0-0 against these teams, outscoring them 7-0.

Revs II can celebrate Friday’s win, but it’s a growing truth that there are fundamental issues with this team’s attack. As a reminder, 16-year-old Noel Buck is the team’s joint-top scorer, alongside Damian Rivera. I’m not sure that’s how Clint Peay imagined things going during the preseason; I’d guess that he expected more output from Rennicks and Sierakowski.

At the end of the day, this is USL League One soccer, and nothing is ever too dire for the MLS-affiliated teams in the league. It’s not do or die. But there are goals to work toward: Stronger decision-making on the attack, more accurate crosses, and better shots. More creativity. More inspiration.

“I think that just comes down to every guy just wanting to win those individual duels,” Spaulding said postgame. “And when you have a team full of guys who are willing to put in that extra effort, it shows, and you get good chances.”

If Revs II wants to make a playoff push, more goals are needed. We’ve seen flashes of the team’s attacking potential; take the 3-0 win over North Texas SC on June 26 as an example.

For now, Revs II will shift focus to Thursday, August 5, when they face North Carolina FC at home. The upcoming visitors were formerly in the USL Championship but dropped to USL League One this year.

“I think this stretch of games is really important for us,” Rozhansky said. “We have this game, and we have the next game at home. And we have a lot of time to prepare for the next game. These are all teams around us in the table. So, these are six-point games. So, if we can take points with these games, it could be a turning point.”